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How can I stop being a people pleaser/start saying no to people/lay down some boundaries?

(24 Posts)
suchapushover Fri 11-Jul-14 23:30:47

Any time I say no to someone they end up getting annoyed about it, and then I end up being the one that backs down and apologises. I am not good at confrontation, and I hate an atmosphere. When I was a child my parents both sulked a lot and were always in bad moods. I hate it when people are cross with me. I hope there are ways of saying no to people without WW3 breaking out?

There are many examples but one in particular is my SIL. I know really that she takes the piss out of me in terms of babysitting. She asks me all the time and then I end up babysitting for far longer than arranged. On the few occasions that I have said no, SIL has created a huge fuss, and it just causes trouble within the family. On the one occasion that I have asked her to babysit for us (emergency) she went uncontactable, not answering her phone and didn't reply to the text I sent her either.

I also have a friend that just seems to want favour after favour. Again if I say no to her then she gets cross, and phones me up to basically have a go at me. I end up going along with things that I don't want to do just for a quiet life. One day last summer she wanted to go to the beach, and I couldn't go as I already had plans, and she fell out with me majorly, bitching about me to mutual friends and being a total cow to me, because I wouldn't do as she said.

I remember in my late teens and early twenties two girls latched onto me because I had a car and could drive on nights out. They were absolutely vile to me, but I ended up jumping through hoops for them and always apologising if I couldn't do as they wanted. That kind of thing sums up how rubbish my boundaries are.

I know I need to grow a backbone. I just hate confrontation.

bughunt Fri 11-Jul-14 23:43:34

I am a natural people pleaser too; I know where you're coming from.

I got sent on an assertiveness course with work about 15 years ago and although I hated every minute, some of the techniques have stayed with me to this day.

There is lots of online info about these techniques if you google, though hopefully someone more knowledgeable will be able to give you proper links.

I've also been helped by dh whos default answer is 'No'. To everything! It's annoying sometimes, but it gives him thinking time - he frequently goes back and says yes, but only if he's sure he wants to do it. I do this to now too to a large extent.

KouignAmann Fri 11-Jul-14 23:47:29

This book is the definitive one on learning the skills you need. I was and still am like you, but now I understand where I was going wrong.

You may also need to think about why you choose friends who are manipulative and use emotional blackmail and abusive behaviour to get what they want. The healthy response to this behaviour would be to end the relationship PDQ. Why do you stay around for a repeat? Who taught you that was acceptable?

Well done for starting to change things. Life gets better and better!

DustBunnyFarmer Fri 11-Jul-14 23:49:49

Try reading 'A Woman in your own right' by Anne Dickson. A really solid guide to assertiveness with practical advice about how to manage situations. Bottom line: "Don't try to win over the haters; you're not the jackass whisperer" (Scott Stratten).

DustBunnyFarmer Fri 11-Jul-14 23:50:38

Jinx, kouign!

KouignAmann Sat 12-Jul-14 00:01:10

One consequence of practising assertive behaviour is you start to get your needs met. The surprising resultof this if you are an unselfish person is to feel very guilty and want to apologise and back down. This took a bit of getting used to as well. There is a book about this too, called something like "When I say No I feel guilty".

MrsTerryPratchett Sat 12-Jul-14 00:07:23

We are having an assertiveness thread over in AIBU. I'll link it.

MrsTerryPratchett Sat 12-Jul-14 00:08:01

Here it is.

TheFirmament Sat 12-Jul-14 00:14:14

I third A woman in your own right. It's a great book because it's so easy to read and full of practical things to try so I actually read it all unlike most self-help books.

EverythingCounts Sat 12-Jul-14 00:16:36

I fourth it! It is great. Also When I Say No I Feel Guilty.

Joysmum Sat 12-Jul-14 01:11:51

My aim is to buy time and then trade a favour in return as 'payment' if you say yes.

passmethewineplease Sat 12-Jul-14 01:16:16

I was just thinking this OP!

I have the same problem. I don't speak up for myself, if I don't want to do something I end up doing it anyway.

It's like I'm afraid of saying no, it pisses me off no end.

You're not alone.

holeinmyheart Sat 12-Jul-14 07:21:37

I have been a 'yes' woman for a large part of my life. I know why, it was because I had a bullying abusive parent and I was trying to please him all the time. I then felt if you put others needs before your own then they would like me. A big mistake, as people like congruent relaxed people. Being liked seemed very important to me. I think you have the same thing, Such. My salvation ( although not entirely cured) was going on a counselling course, relating to work. I went for 10 weeks and it was life changing. It gave me the confidence to stand up for myself and realise that I was as good as anyone else. Most colleges run counselling courses and the first one was free. I could never be a counsellor but the course gave me the ammunition to defend myself and realise that if others think they have rights , then so do I. If you continually put others first it will spill over to your family and your children and husband will come second as well. It is a unhealthy thing to do.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 12-Jul-14 07:25:49

Regarding conflict, I think the part to get over - from my perspective - is learning how to ignore that mild panicky feeling when someone appears to be unhappy or angry at something you said or did. Instead of the knee-jerk reaction of 'Oh no.. they're angry... I feel bad.... I must apologise and make this right' the skill is to get as far as 'I feel bad' but stop there. Let the panicky feeling calm down, let them get angry or whatever, but don't go for the next step in the behaviour pattern.

tobysmum77 Sat 12-Jul-14 07:40:42

I think you need to start when you meet anyone by assessing if you like them.

Sorry to be blunt but your SIL and friend are nasty pisstakers. People like them look for people like you. Surely if they fall out with you that's a result?

angeloftheeast Sat 12-Jul-14 07:48:53

I agree with cog it's about learning to ignore the panicky feeling when you feel a hint of other people's annoyance. I've had this all my life too due to a very moody and angry mother when I was growing up. Consequently I grew up thinking I was responsible for managing others behaviour. It's taken having kids of my own for me to realise I'm not.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 12-Jul-14 07:56:07

Thanks angeloftheeast... when I wrote the phrase 'mild panicky feeling' and posted I had a moment of doubt that maybe only I feel that! smile But I think you're quite right about the anxiety stemming from the idea that we feel obliged to manage others' behaviour.

FunkyBoldRibena Sat 12-Jul-14 07:59:23

With your SIL - the response she would get the very next time would be 'Unfortunately SIL, when I needed you - just the once - to pay back all the babysitting I've done you went no contact, and didn't even respond to my texts or requests. So as I know you are unwilling to reciprocate, I shan't be doing any more babysitting unless it actually suits me.'

The friend - is no friend. Drop her. Nothing good will come of this.

something2say Sat 12-Jul-14 08:07:38

Everyone is right. If people want to emotionally blackmail you into doing what they say, then they are not safe people to be around....

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 12-Jul-14 08:17:43

The trouble is for the OP that it's not the form of words they struggle with but the feeling that they are entitled to say them in the first place. Anyone who remembers that famous photo of the solitary Chinese protester standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square..... that's rather what it feels for someone who lacks confidence to say a simple 'no' to the SIL making unreasonable demands. It's a courage thing to begin with, but it gets a lot, lot easier the more you do it.

gottachangethename1 Sat 12-Jul-14 08:18:19

Some great advice. I grew up with a mum that sulked & who I was terrified to cause upset with, result is I feel I must keep others happy. Often at the expense of myself & immediate family.

BerylStreep Sat 12-Jul-14 12:00:59

How did your friendships develop with these people? Was it an active thing where you thought 'hmm, I really like this person, we get on well, and we have loads in common' or when you reflect back, did you sort of slip into it?

Dirtybadger Sat 12-Jul-14 12:27:18

Atmosphere wise; bluff it. You've said "no" and you've noticed somebody sulking about it. Act like you haven't noticed. Everything is normal. Be pleasant as usual. When they realise you're not apologising and possibly haven't even noticed they're unhappy they will be forced to consider why they're being unreasonable because the only options you leave them with are "suck it up" or "have a conversation about why saying no was the wrong thing". Assuming saying no was perfectly reasonable, they probably won't get to #2 because they'll realise it's not valid. When you apologise and take back your "no" you do #2 for them. Their opinion is validated (you should have said yes) without them even having to consider it truly. Hope that makes some sense.

Bright and breezy definitely helps me in confrontation, anyway, and smiling, etc, effects you physically too. Reduced anxiety and panic.

Oh but the easiest thing to do is not be friends with horrible people. When you notice they're not nice, distance yourself. They're not worth it. Even if they stop trying to tale advantage of you you'll only notice them bullying someone else, and they probably aren't great fun to be around.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sat 12-Jul-14 12:29:08

It develops by the person initially being 'In a tight spot... would you mind... SO grateful... you're such a diamond!!' which a people-pleaser loves as chance to ingratiate themselves. The clue is in the title. A people pleaser wants to be liked. By anyone. Fail to go along with it and you quickly go from being best friend to 'In a tight spot... what do you mean 'no'?.... fuck off you bitch'.

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